The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner


“…for who can endure the day of his coming?”  ~ Malachi 3:2


When an angel

snapped the old thin threads of speech

with an untimely birth announcement,

slit the seemly cloth of an even more blessed

event with shears of miracle,

invaded the privacy of a dream, multiplied

to ravage the dark silk of the sky,

the innocent ears, with swords of sound:

news in a new dimension demanded

qualification.  The righteous were

as vulnerable as others.  They trembled

for those strong antecedent Fear nots,

whether goatherds, virgins, worker

in wood, or holy barren priests.


In our nights

our complicated modern dreams

rarely flower into visions.  No contemporary

Gabriel dumbfounds our worship,

or burning, visits our bedrooms.

No satellite signpost hauls us, earthbound

but star-struck, half around the world

with hope.  Are our sensibilities too blunt

to be assaulted with spatial power-plays

and far-out proclamations of peace?

Sterile, skeptics, yet we may be broken

to his slow, silent birth, his beginning

new in us.  His big-ness may still burst

our self-containment to tell us,

without angels’ mouths, Fear not.


God knows we need to hear it, now,

when he may shatter, with his most shocking

coming, this proud, cracked place,

and more if, for longer waiting,

he does not.


(From: Accompanied by Angels:  Poems of the Incarnation by Luci Shaw)